Adjusting sleep schedules for school

Published 5:56 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2016

It’s almost back-to-school time for students across Beaufort County. Children will be back in the classrooms on Aug. 29. Buying new school supplies, some new clothes and getting summer work done are all on the to-do list.

One thing that needs to be added to that list is adjusting one’s sleep schedule. Whether it’s working a summer job, going to camps or just spending quality time with friends and family, many children have grown accustomed to staying up later and, in turn, waking up later.

Resuming early mornings all of a sudden can be not only painful for children and teenagers, but also unhealthy. Doctors say that students ease their way into an earlier morning by gradually changing their sleep schedule. Dr. Haris Rao, director of the Pediatric Sleep Program at Penn State, suggests adjusting one’s sleep schedule in 30-minute intervals every two or three days.

With that approach in mind, it can take some time for students that have been waking up at 10 a.m. to get accustomed to waking up at 7 a.m. That three-hour correction can take up to 18 days.

Electronics can hinder sleep and adjusting that sleep cycle. Some prefer to sleep with the television on, but videogames, smartphones and other electronics can be detrimental to a good night’s sleep. According to Rao, the light emitted from these devices act as stimulants to the brain that prevent the production of melatonin.

Then, of course, there are the literal stimulants. Caffeine and sugar can keep children up far past their bedtimes, making that adjustment even tougher. Rao says that children shouldn’t drink anything caffeinated after lunchtime.

While these suggestions are ideal, some are more realistic than others. It will take effort to work around the busy end-of-summer work schedule and social obligations. However, if one is dedicated to it, it will make the transition back into the school year much more seamless.